Normans were the descendants of Vikings who settled in Normandy in northern France during the 10th century. From Normandy, the Normans ranged into many other parts of Europe over the subsequent centuries including Italy, Sicily, England, Scotland and Ireland.
In some of these regions, Normans established their own ruling dynasties producing some of the most notable kings of the time. Among the most renowned Norman kings was William the Conqueror who established the Norman rule in England and Richard the Lionheart who led English efforts in the Crusades against Saladin.
England continued to be ruled by Norman monarchs from the Norman Conquest in the 11th century to the 14th century. The last Norman ruler of England was Richard II whose reign ended in 1399.
William the Conqueror was the Duke of Normandy who led a large Norman force to England in 1066. He eventually defeated the Anglo-Saxon King of England, Harold Godwinson, and became the first Norman king of England.
He thus founded the Norman rule in England, ushering in a new era in the region. William was most notable for his military prowess and expertise. Having defeated the main Anglo-Saxon army, William had to suppress a number of revolts and rebellions all over England.
This he did successfully despite having both Normandy and the newly conquered England under his control. He oversaw the construction of a large number of castles which cemented Norman control over England and ensured that the Norman conquest of England was a permanent change.
Richard the Lionheart was a Norman king who ruled England from 1189 to 1199. He also served as the Duke of Normandy before ascending to the English throne. He had a very eventful life, the early part of which was spent battling his father’s forces on the Continent. Henry II, his father, initially waged a long and protracted battle against Richard and his brothers. Eventually, Henry II named Richard his heir just before his death.
Richard was an ardent supporter of the cause of Crusades and took part in a long campaign against Saladin’s forces in the Holy Land. Although he secured some victories, he couldn’t decisively dent Muslim control over Jerusalem. However, his valour on the battlefield earned him the epithet of Lionheart.
Henry I was one of the sons of William the Conqueror. He ascended to the English throne in 1100 and remained King until his death in 1135. His reign was marked with attempts to bring stability to both England and Normandy.
Henry I’s brother, Robert, disputed his claim to the throne but was subsequently defeated in Normandy and Henry gained control of the territories in Normandy as well.
He created a number of institutions directly linked to the monarchy which helped him balance the royal power against the rising might of the barons. Although he had to face military campaigns initiated by France, Flanders and Anjou, he successfully deflected all attempts to deflate his power all the way until his death in 1135.